Thursday, April 12, 2012

Day 12: Fowl Weather

Every month when I write a poem a day the wonderful poet who dreams up these daily prompts includes a chicken poem -- a prompt that somehow includes a reference to a chicken.  It's always heartening to get the chicken prompt.  This year the chicken prompt was subtle, but still fun.  Last night we had a bit of "fowl weather" - a massive rain storm that woke us in the middle of the night.  My family and I live in a big barn with a tin roof, so whenever it rains, we hear it vividly.  I love the sound of rain on a metal roof, even when it is a storm.  That sound was still in my head when I began to write today's poem.  In it I started thinking about the lives of three women in the apple industry.  A migrant worker with children, a beauty queen who stepped out of a giant apple at an Apple Show and an apple rancher's wife who works the fields by day and cares for the family by night.  Here is my draft:

Three Hybrid Women in the Apple Industry
“When I die, if I go to a place where there are apples, I’ll know it won’t be heaven.”

1. Winterstein

I remember how rain punctuated
the night in the tin-roofed barn where we slept.
How the wind howled through the drafty old barn.
How the children, still tired from picking
woke and howled too. In between—gossamer
frescos were painted in our dreaming minds:
sitting in the quiet shade undisturbed
without the weight of work, ahead, behind.
Before light comes, the rooster screams us awake.

2. Red Maiden’s Blush

At the 1915 Apple Show, tent
air thick with warm sweat, dust, rotting apples.
Luther Burbank stood elevated on
a packing crate. Ta-da! He said cracking
a foolish grin and waving a wooden
wand at a gigantic Gravenstein apple.
Then the apple opened, revealing two
half-moons of white flesh and painted on seeds,
and the young pretty girl who stepped out of
it bewildered for a moment, as if
she’d just awoken from a restful sleep,
before the smile spread across her tight lips,
before the applause poured over her.

3. Bonita

After the tractor cooled and dust settled
come in to house gone cold, stoke fire’s coals
peel and slice the windfalls thin, brown sugar
a lemon plucked yesterday from the bough.
Roll dough cold. Cover. Bake an hour. Gather
the children. Coax read words or written. Stir
pot hot on iron stove. Wash the earth from
crooked carrots and beets. Slice thin into
caste-iron skillet. Stir with yesterday’s
slaughtered chicken. Wash the young faces. Scold
the one’s who know better. Divvy chores: set,
serve eat, clear, wash, scour, hot steam boiled. Lay
the children down. Look for quiet enough.
Sit beside the glowing coals, song pouring
back into the fire what’s burned out.

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